Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Elysium Was Good, But No District 9

Elysium was a good example of serious science fiction with plenty of action, but was not as good as District 9.  In the year 2154 Matt Damon plays Max De Costa, a poor worker living on an over populated, overly polluted planet Earth with dreams of one day moving to the beautiful, massive space habitat for the wealthy known as Elysium.  Max is an ex –criminal who is just trying to turn his life around and work a steady job in a factory making military robots who keep the peace down on Earth.  However, after a serious accident leaves Max with only a few days to live, he suddenly has nothing to lose and is determined to make it to Elysium by any means in an attempt to save himself.  Max’s primary opposition is Jessica Delacourt, Elysium’s Secretary of Defense played by Jodie Foster, and her mercenary lap dog Kruger.  As Max attempts to save his own life he ends up becoming the key to unlocking Elysium for everyone on Earth and must decide which is more important.  Exploring themes like immigration and class struggle, the film drives home a lot of current world issues.  Brilliant special effects akin to those in District 9 make the movie very believable but certain aspects could have been better thought out.  Overall, the film didn’t have the same kind of sociological and political impact that District 9 had which was disappointing but the gritty future world and over the top luxury of Elysium drive home the serious division between rich and poor that exists today and will only get worse in the future.  In the end, Elysium is a hybrid of the classy, serious science fiction films like Moon or 2001: A Space Odyssey and sci-fi action movies like Star Trek or Transformers which is great because it has a little something for everyone.

Hall of Fame Inductees Announced!

It's official, the 2014 Rock and Roll Hall of Fame inductees have been announced and it's quite the class.  Nirvana has been inducted in their first year of eligibility, nearly 25 years to the day that their first single "Love Buzz" hit the the shelves.  KISS has also FINALLY been inducted after 15 years of eligibility.  Other members of the class of 2014 include Peter Gabriel, Linda Ronstadt, and Hall and Oats.  Rumors are already sweeping the web about the live performances at the induction ceremony particularly Nirvana's which might see Dave Grohl and Krist Noveselic playing with Paul McCartney again (if my wish comes true).  Gene Simmons has also said that he isn't opposed to a KISS reunion for the ceremony as well which no doubt already has life long KISS Army members preparing to buy tickets to the show.  Yes that's correct, for the first time ever the general public will be allowed to buy tickets to the ceremony in NYC.  Read the full Rolling Stone article below.

2014 Rock and Roll Hall of Fame Inductees

This Morning's Playlist

Some songs from my snow commute today

1. Moonlight in Vermont - Frank Sinatra
2. Out of Vogue - Middle Class
3. Scarlet Begonias - Sublime
4. White Christmas - Bad Religion
5. Little Talks - Of Monsters and Men

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

I Love When Bands Go Back to Their Roots

The Foo Fighters are one of the biggest names in rock music today.  Maybe THE biggest.  So to see them get up on a tiny stage at an L.A. pizza place is nothing short of spectacular.  The Foo's are preparing to head south and play two shows in Mexico and to prep, they decided it would be a good idea to play an impromptu set to whomever decided they wanted pizza that particular night.  Busting out 23 songs, the show was so small and cramped that drum mics weren't even necessary as drummer Taylor Hawkins and his band mates ripped through crowd favorites like "Learn to Fly".  This was probably the smallest stage to host Dave Grohl since he was playing drums for Scream in the late 1980's but that's what makes moments like this so special.  If only it happened more often.  Check out a fan video in the link below.

Foo Fighters Play Intimate Pizza Show

KHAN!!! - Star Trek Sequel Picks Up Where Last Film Left Off

Star Trek: Into Darkness was a great sequel with shocking twists and turns, and plenty of throwbacks to the original series.  As captain of the USS Enterprise, we find James T. Kirk along with his First Officer Spock studying a primitive species on an alien planet.  After an extreme volcanic eruption threatens the planet and its inhabitants, Kirk and Spock set out to try and save the natives.  However, when Spock’s life is threatened Kirk disobeys the prime directive and reveals the existence of the hidden Starship Enterprise to the people of the planet in order to save both their lives and Spock’s.  Afterwards Kirk loses his command of the Enterprise and the ship is returned to Admiral Pike who manages to secure Kirk a spot as his First Officer in the hopes that one day he could once again resume command.  After an unexpected attack by rogue Star Fleet officer John Harrison, Kirk is flung back into unknown territory as a centuries old mystery unfolds and Harrison is revealed to be the evil superhuman Khan.  With all the characters from the previous film reprising their roles, the film felt like it picked up right where the last one left off which was great.  It felt like a very logical continuation which is so necessary for a good sequel.  Simon Pegg plays a larger role as Scotty this time around and Karl Urban returns for another masterful portrayal of Dr. McCoy.  With throwbacks like the infamous Klingons and the furry little Tribbles making their way into the film, it’s sure to make diehard fans of the franchise happy while at the same time supplying enough over the top action and effects to keep today’s new generation of Trekkies enthralled.  After the success of both Star Trek films it seems obvious that the series will continue well into the future as the Enterprise continues to boldly go where no man has gone before.

Wednesday, December 4, 2013

The Wolverine - A Good Chapter in the X-Men Series

The Wolverine, the latest in Marvel’s X-Men film series was scattered at times and difficult to follow, but overall a decent chapter in the immortal life of the series main character Logan (played by Hugh Jackman).  Taking place after the events of X-Men III: X-Men United, we find Logan living in exile somewhere in rural America, emerging from his cave hideout in the woods only to get supplies when he needs them.  Shaggy and unkempt, Logan has forsaken the name of “Wolverine” and has put his past with the X-Men behind him.  Still feeling an immense sense of guilt after having killed his love Jean Gray, Logan is plagued by nightmares night after night and has begun to question whether he still has reason to live at all.  Trapped by his own immortality it seems that Logan is destined to live in a perpetual purgatory plagued by his own past.  That is until he meets an unexpected Japanese girl named Yukio who has come at the request of her master Yashida, a man whom Logan saved from the destruction of the second atomic bomb dropped on Nagasaki.  As his dying request, Yashida asks that Logan come to Japan so that he can thank him one last time.  As it turns out, Yashida is the owner of the largest, most powerful tech company in Japan and has much more planned for Logan than expected.  I won’t go any further into the mystery that develops but Logan finds himself once again as the Wolverine fighting to save not only himself but also Yashida’s granddaughter Mariko from a brutal death.  My only real complaint with the film is that it took too long to get to the point.  We don’t find out what the villains motives are until the final 15 minutes of the film and that makes the other 90 minutes and change difficult to follow as you continuously find yourself asking “why?”  That being said, the introduction of a few new mutants and some incredible martial arts fighting makes this not only a great action movie, but an entertaining and logical chapter in the X-Men saga. 

This Morning's Playlist

A few songs from my commute this morning:

1. Peggy Sang the Blues - Frank Turner
2. Freakin Out - Death
3. Marigold - Nirvana
4. Royals - Lorde
5. Cannonball - The Breeders

Frank Turner - An Incredible Artist Who Puts on an Amazing Show

Frank Turner is bringing folk-punk, indie-rock bliss to the masses in a way unlike anything I’ve seen before.  I just went to his show this past Saturday at the House of Blues and his live performance did not disappoint, even despite the fact that he had a serious back injury.  After leaving his post-hardcore band Million Dead in 2005, the England based Turner embarked on a primarily acoustic based solo tour, eventually recruiting the members of his now backing band the Sleeping Souls.  With five studio albums under his belt, the most recent being 2013’s Tape Deck Heart Frank turner continues to produce incredible punk laced folk rock.  Singles such as “If I Ever Stray” and “I Still Believe” off his last album, England Keep My Bones got a decent amount of radio play a couple years ago and that, coupled with the popularity of the single “Recovery” off his latest release have skyrocketed Frank Turner into the public eye.  The show was PACKED shoulder to shoulder in an incredibly lively, upbeat atmosphere which made everyone smile and dance.  His songs are all catchy with poppy choruses which get the whole crowd singing along.  His lyrics are varied but very personal and downright poetic almost all of the time.  With a melting pot of people in attendance from studded jean jacket wearing street punks to high school girls to groups of middle aged men, the crowd was a testament to the spectrum of musical influences represented in Turners songs.  He says it best in “I Still Believe” in which he sings “who’d have thought, that after all, something as simple as rock and roll would save us all, yeah who’d have thought, that after all, it was rock and roll”. Frank Turner could not be more right.   Everyone at that show was able to forget about all their problems and just get lost in the overwhelming power of great music.

Prince Avalanche Falls Short

Prince Avalanche felt like a desperate attempt at indie gold.  The film focuses on Alvin (played by Paul Rudd) who is spending the summer in solitude in the backwoods of Texas painting street lines on miles of rural highway damaged by wildfire.  Alvin is an odd duck who can’t quite decide what makes him happy.  Immersing himself entirely in the silence of the decimated, charred forest Alvin is less than excited when he takes on an unlikely partner, his girlfriend’s younger brother Lance, played by Emile Hirsch.  Immature, obnoxious, and mildly philosophical, Lance is at first nothing more than an annoyance to Alvin as he talks constantly about “getting laid” and partying in town.  As the film progresses the two form an unlikely friendship as they help each other deal with their life problems including relationship woes and an uncertainty about the future which plagues them both.  While the film has a few laugh out loud moments in which ironic, Wes Anderson like humor is employed mostly by Rudd, the movie was an overall failed attempt at an emotionally gripping coming of age tale.  It’s brutally apparent that Emile Hirsch’s character is considerably younger than himself which at times was awkward to watch as he seemed overly whiny and childish and more of a caricature of a recent high school grad rather than the real thing.  Their relationship is more believable at certain times but for the most part it’s obvious that you are watching Paul Rudd and Emile Hirsch and for me that is rule number one when it comes to indie films.  If it’s clear that you are watching well-known actors, it takes away from the real life believability that makes great indie movies so powerful and that is where Prince Avalanche falls short.